Editor's Note: Head coach Matt Barany will continue his annual tradition and pen a blog over the duration of this week's A-10 Swimming & Diving Championship. His championship week entries can be found below.
Feb. 26, 2012: 27 Weeks Later, A Tenth Title And Plenty Of Cats
We're back in sunny Richmond after our five-night stay in Buffalo, N.Y. The University of Richmond has its tenth A-10 Swimming & Diving championship, and the season isn't over. Of course, Cha has her final meet in London, and it looks like Lauren (18th in the country) will get a shot at earning All-America honors at the 2012 NCAA Championship meet in Auburn. The travel itinerary stays busy.
We are fortunate to have shared our week with our Athletic Director, Jim Miller, and the Dean of Westhampton College, Juliette Landphair. I know we have a very special group; I hope their front-row seat for this championship gives them a glimpse into the greatness I work with daily. We thank them for taking the time to travel to the vacation destination that is Buffalo in February.
I am thankful for our fun-loving cast - Erika, Nicole, Zach, Travis and a bunch of cats. There were unnecessary cheers for Travis and Zach (aka: Jack). We benefited from too many "Zach Attacks" and "slow claps" each day. These guys were not only supportive of the women in our quest for a championship, but they were also great sports when the joke was on them. And the cats...
We request the women to not participate in social media while we are in Buffalo. The women found a way to fill this void with a new iPhone app called Cat Effects. It allows you to transpose cats into any photo. The ladies enjoyed taking candid pictures and "cat effecting" it. I was not spared.
We closed the week with our annual dinner at Pearl Street. The seniors and their parents shared the microphone to articulate their four years. This group of six (Liz Cohan, Mary Anne Lerro, Lexi Kuska, Jill Smaniotto, Michelle Johnson and Cha Brackett) has seen it all. They were highly-touted freshmen when we won #8 and said good-bye to Lauren Beaudreau and Cara Smaniotto; they were sophomores when we learned about defeat; they were juniors when we established our core values and stormed back last year; they were senior leaders for this championship. They couldn't have more different personalities, yet they stuck together through defections and defeat to go out as champions. Each of them can extract value from this week, and we cannot measure their value to our program. They will be missed dearly. Luckily, Mr. Turtle will be staying with us!
We also shared a short conference call with our JMU friends as they celebrated their first CAA championship since 2001. They, too, believe in the value of good people, hard work and laughter.
Mali Kobelja and Allison Titley were recognized by the A-10 coaches. Being the only swimmer to win three individual events, Mali was named Swimmer of the Meet. Mali has amazing versatility; she anchored our winning 400 Free Relay with 49.60 after going 2:13 in the 200 Breast. That's not a common feat. We're proud the A-10 coaches recognize her value to our program. Allison was a source of inspiration for all. She won the 500 Free, chased Cha in the 200 Free, won the Academy Award for Cat Effects and was named Rookie of the Meet. Allison is a one-of-a-kind young woman. She is zany, yet she is also sensitive. I can't imagine a team without these two.
I can't imagine my life without any of these women. On the top layer, we see a small university, a growing wave of support from our alumni, a group of motivated young women, a team championship, a breaststroke army, a surging IM group, a diving component with traction, a dance party and some cats. Go a layer deeper and you'll find 27 weeks of training, the development of skills, the focus on minute details like perfect relay-exchanges, an understanding of sport science, more efficient hearts, stronger cores and ambitious minds. Slip deeper and you'll find the values that we find crucial - pride, purpose, courage, selflessness, and respect - wrapped in lifelong friendships. At the bottom of all of it are a love for our sport and a love for each other.
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Feb. 24, 2012: Charlotte's Final Chapters One Of Many Stories Unfolding This Week
A great Friday morning led to a more relaxed Friday evening. In looking at Saturday's events, we hope it will be our best day.
I want to touch on one senior. In two weeks, I'm going to be in London with Charlotte Brackett for the British Olympic Trials. It will be her "last" race. Prior to Cha, our sprint free was not a strength. It was strong, but it wasn't a strength. Cha has anchored relays with Alex Helland, Katie Sieben, Lauren Beaudreau, Lauren Hines, Mali Kobelja, Mina Vucic, Nicole LePere, Lexi Kuska, Jessie Krebs and Jill Smaniotto to name a few. Her name is on the back of every Richmond relay record. In her sophomore year, she was the only A-10 swimmer to win her three events. She broke Sue Wager's immortal 200 free school record and holds the current school record at 1:48.85.
In her junior year, Charlotte won the memorable 200 free with Jessie, and this year she won the memorable 200 free with Allison. She drills with a small wooden stick to make sure she reaches into each stroke. She doesn't like long freestyle swims, but can be tricked into doing them on her back. In fact, her best freestyle comes when her backstroke feels good. She loathes the 40 x 50's, and has done 20 x 100 free under 1:00 instead. Her confidence has grown and shrunk and grown again. Cha can be quiet and complex.
Like many who have come before her, there is no measurement for Cha's impact on our program. Cha swam her last Richmond relay tonight with Lauren, Mali and Jill when she anchored the 400 medley relay in an A-10 and Richmond record time. Thank you, Cha.
There are many stories unfolding in Buff. I hope to find time to share more. Thank you for your support.
Feb. 23, 2012: Nerves Shaken, New Inspirations Awaken
The snow is gone, and so too is Travis' voice.
We started today with bundled nerves from our seniors to our freshmen. It was frighteningly obvious. Tonight, we were a much goofier group, and things started to click. I believe the best is yet to come.
Jessie was an inspiration today. Jessie braved the 500 with renewed focus and renewed energy. I know she is disappointed in her times, but the way she "shook off" last night's relay contribution to refocus on her schedule inspired many. I don't think we would have become our confident selves tonight if it weren't for Jessie.
Allison won the final of the 500 free, and Lexi won consols in the race. I know Allison and Lexi learned from Jessie. These are the connections that make a team strong. Jessie turned misfortune into valuable lessons, and Lexi and Allison turned Jessie into an inspiration. Jessie would deflect this by pointing out that Allison's inspiration came from her accidental trip into the men's locker room.
I hesitate to think we are growing a fresh crop of IMers. We'll wait to see the 400's tomorrow before we judge. For not "training" IM, we tend to do well in the event. Anna, Meredith and Mali dropped their best times tonight. Mali broke the A-10 meet record in the 200 with her 1:59.49. Erin time trialed in the afternoon and dropped three seconds to a 2:06.65. Jillian also time trialed the 50 Free (23.84) to land her a spot on the winning 200 free relay with Mali, Ace and Cha.
Liz finally broke the :24.00 barrier after many years of flirting with it. It is so fun to watch a senior smile like a little kid after her race. I think Liz and the rest of our seniors will put together two great days.
How nice is it to have a diver landing on the podium? Katherine scored third tonight on 1m and was a calm model for all.
We're accepting of a team race. With 55 points separating us from Fordham, it looks like the weekend will be a challenging one.
Thank you for taking a second to read this. We appreciate your time.
Feb. 22, 2012 (Evening): Day One Draws To A close
Thank goodness for this blog. Tonight, this responsibility allows me to share an apology. I apologized to the women tonight for my decision on the order of the 800 Free Relay. We have many candidates for that relay. I believed, and I still believe, Lauren, Cha, Jessie and Lexi can be very fast.
I made several errors during my leg of this relay, and I will work hard to remedy those with the women.
Our 200 Medley Relay dropped their old school and A-10 record. Thankfully, I got this order right. We thought we could go under 1:39. We still think we can go under - maybe we'll try again. Lauren's back split (24.78) mirrored last year's split, yet she hit a speed on her second 25 that we haven't seen before. We made a minor change to Mali's breaststroke in early January; apparently, she likes it (27.86). Jill has a powerful fly when she uses her "hip-driven-whole-body-fly", and the entire team (including Jill) can identify it. We all knew her leg tonight was her "try-too-hard-fly" even though it was a fast leg (24.41). Cha (22.43) had a more than two-second lead going into her leg and could have extended her reach an inch in each stroke. Cha is smiling this week, so look out!
We're excited about the result of the relay, yet there are plenty of lessons to take away from it, too.
I fall terribly short of painting the full picture in this blog. Imagine the women in black Speedo LZRs with black caps for all races. Tonight, we also went red parka on black jacket on black shirts with red Spider on black crops. The women look strong, confident and classy.
We're tied with Fordham for first. Hmmmm. Tomorrow, we race the 500 Free, 200 IM, 50 Free and Katherine rocks the 1m. We also plan to time trial Erin and Jill. I expect a lot of freshmen nerves and a lot of valuable lessons.
It snowed tonight, and I was hit with multiple snowballs thrown by a girl from Florida. A day in my life...
Thank you for your support. Also, thank you for taking the time to text or email me. I've shared them with the team!
Feb. 22, 2012: Blondes, Brunettes & Bringing The Energy
I went to Starbucks this morning and ordered a Tall Blonde Red-eye. Why don't they call their new blend Brunette? It's not blonde; brunette is a more accurate description. I would feel much better about myself if my Starbucks drink order was a Tall Brunette; I wouldn't feel like such a cheater. C'mon, Starbucks!
BTW - I was a bit crazy this morning. I should be called the "Richmond Spider-Monkey" after one of those drinks. Some things just never change.
We'll head over tonight at 4:30 p.m. for the 200 Medley Relay and the 800 Free Relay. The meet starts at 6:30 p.m. There is no women's diving today; Katherine will dive on Thursday and Saturday.
There was a lot of song and dance this morning. We used the time at the pool as an opportunity to relax and get used to the facility. There are nerves, but they are the normal healthy fears. The ladies look good in the water, so I would expect waves of confidence to replace the nerves on their own time.
Our message tonight: Bring all of your stored energy. Let's support our relays with the most we can give them. Believe in your teammates as they trust and believe in you! We'll band together to focus on two events tonight. Just two.
I'd like to share with you our relay line-up for tonight, but I don't want to tip our hand.
Please cheer loudly and make a fool of yourself! We will!
Thank you for supporting the women.
Feb. 21, 2012: A Look Back Before The Week Ahead
It amazes me to be back at this point in the year again. I know, I know - time accelerates with age. But it's more than just time; it takes a lot of energy from a lot of valuable people to get here.
Some of those valuable people deserve praise, as they are the University of Richmond's Team of Distinction, honored at last weekend's 2012 Spider Hall of Fame festivities.
We were privileged to have Riley, Gigi, Crossman, Denney, Jessica and Bateman come back to practice and speak with the 2011-2012 team about their 2004-2005 season. These women, along with their teammates and coaches that year, are great role models for us. You guys dominated!
Yesterday, we had the shortest team meeting of the year, yet it might have been the most productive. We discussed "2010" - our loss. Michelle reminded us of the events of that week and reflected on how we responded insaying, "We bonded together with motivation to take risks." I followed with, "What is our objective this week?"
There are many correct answers, and I didn't know where this question would lead us. I don't think they did either. Jessie braved an answer: "to use our values to win a championship." I was thankful she hit it.
I can argue that the two most important words of this meeting were "bond" from Michelle and "a" from Jessie. That was the message for this team meeting - BOND together to win A championship.
Today was easy. We made it through all of our stops, including Marco's, in time to be back at the hotel by 8:00 p.m. Sadly, there is no snow. Those of you who know me understand how I feel about this.
Travis Stensby - Assistant Coach
Erika Matheis - Diving Coach
Zach Burrus - Sports PR guru
Nicole Lovejoy - Sports Medicine
Our Competition: La Salle and UMass look very good with their seed times. Fordham is the only other team here that knows how to win a championship, and we respect them. We welcome a hard fought meet; we'd welcome a four-team race for the championship. We're going hard after the relays. We'll start racing tomorrow night, and I can't wait!
Thank you for your support and your energy. We appreciate the extraordinary attention this year, and we are motivated to represent Richmond very well.
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